Small Businesses Providing Job Opportunities for All Americans
WASHINGTON – Today, entrepreneurs shared their personal stories with the House Small Business Committee about providing employment opportunities for adults with autism, Down syndrome and other intellectual or developmental disorders, syndromes, or disabilities. Witnesses told members of the Committee how these individuals boost morale and productivity in the workplace while raising awareness about the untapped talents and abilities of this often-overlooked community.
“For adults with intellectual or developmental disabilities or disorders, finding sustaining employment can be a real challenge,” said House Small Business Committee Chairman Steve Chabot (R-OH). “These individuals can be overlooked when employment opportunities arise, and too often they are shut out from the workplace all together.”
“Yet across the country we are seeing examples of how small businesses, with their ability to adapt and accommodate, are able to provide employment opportunities to those who might not otherwise get a chance,” Chabot added.
ONE CINCY SMALL BUSINESS OWNER’S STORY
“We need to educate others so they begin to take the “dis” out of disabilities and replace it with ‘abilities,’ said Terri Hogan, the owner of Contemporary Cabinetry East in Cincinnati, OH, who was accompanied today by Mike Ames, an employee who has Down syndrome. “We also need to make small businesses aware of the huge untapped resource that is people with diverse abilities. Hiring people who are physically, genetically or cognitively diverse is not just the right thing to do, it is the smart thing to do.”
“Mike has raised morale, brought community awareness, caused others to have broader perspectives and has developed many friends at CCE. For the business, Mike has helped to develop a healthier ‘bottom line’; everyone works harder because of the example he sets. Mike has raised everyone’s standards at Contemporary Cabinetry East and hiring Mike was the best business decision I have ever made,” testified Hogan.
“POPPIN’ JOE” SHARES HIS STORY WITH CONGRESS
Joe Steffy, the owner of Poppin Joe’s Gourmet Kettle Korn in Louisburg, KS, shared his personal entrepreneurship story with the Committee.
“In high school, my IEP (Individualized Education Plan) team began to plan for my transition into adulthood. The team had very low expectations. The worst disability there is that of low expectations. They said I would never hold a job, that I had no attention span, could not focus, would need to live in a group home and go to a sheltered workshop. My parents disagreed. They knew I was capable of working and that I learned by watching. They also knew I would do exactly what I saw done, so teaching me the right way to do things would be important. I am happiest when I am busy and my parents knew this. I would work, they said,” recalled Steffy.
“My business works for me. It creates new opportunities for me to grow as a person, and to be an engaged, valued member of my community. With the right support system, being a self-supporting entrepreneur can be, and is, a reality for me,” he added.
AUTISM SPEAKS: ADVOCATE’S VIEW
“Small businesses are in a position not only to develop new models that employ individuals with autism, but also to innovate in a way that directly responds to local labor market needs,” testified Lisa Goring, the Executive Vice President for Programs and Services at Autism Speaks. “The connection many small businesses have with their community is vital to creating the partnerships necessary to transition young adults into the local workforce, share best practices with other local businesses, and nurture a workforce comprised of people with varying abilities.”